Thank a Church Musician Today! | St. Cecilia Day Variations

THANK A CHURCH MUSICIAN TODAY! Thank your choir! Church musicians put in long hours away from family, missing weekends and evenings. They don’t get paid much money even when at the highest levels of their profession and art. But making music for God is in their blood. They know no other way to live!

St. Cecilia“Playing the organ, Cecilia chanted to the Lord, saying: Let my heart be made spotless, so that I may not be confounded.” – Vespers Antiphon for the Feast of St. Cecilia, November 22

 VIEW SAMPLE SCORE: St. Cecilia Day Variations

    • ($14.95) Digital PDF copy comes with reprint license limited to use for one performer. You do not have permission to disseminate the score. Upon purchase, you will receive an email from which you can download the score.

  • Recording by Richard J. Clark on the 1999 Smith & Gilbert Organ, St. Cecilia Church, Boston, MA with St. Cecilia Men’s Schola:


    Hard copies and downloadable digital scores of the Communion Antiphons for Advent, published with World Library Publications.

    You can listen to recordings directed by Paul French here.

The Greatest in the Kingdom

FOR OUR FIRST CHILD, our daughter, I composed a hymn based on the story found in three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) about the disciples arguing over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus then shows them a little child:

Matthew 18: 1-5: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”

It is made available for digital download in two different keys, one lower, which is more ideal for a congregation to sing. A higher key is also provided to allow the sopranos to soar.

($29.00) Digital PDF copy comes with reprint license limited to use for one choir. You do not have permission to disseminate the score. Upon purchase, you will receive an email from which you can download the score.

Here is a live recording (2007—lower key) performed by Youth Pro Musica and the St. Cecilia Choir, Boston, with Peter Krasinski, organ.

The Seraphim Singers • World Première of work by Adam Wood and Richard J. Clark

HAVE LONG ADMIRED the writing of poet Adam Wood (b. 1982); his poetry, prose, and commentary are distinct, stemming in part from eclectic passions which include liturgy, theology, technology, economics and the Open Source. The results of such combination of interests are fascinating.

When Jennifer Lester, Director of The Seraphim Singers, asked me to compose another work for them on sacred poetry, I eagerly dug into Adam Wood’s work. His dedication to the spirit, art, and intellect (often infused with sharp wit) constitute a distinctly unique body of work from which one will elicit much inspiration and insight.

The result of this collaboration is On Emptiness, Wisdom, and Fortune (2014) which combines two of Wood’s poems On Fortune and On Emptiness. You can read Adam Wood’s essays and poems here.

IF YOU ARE IN THE BOSTON AREA be sure not to miss this premiere as part the Seraphim Singer’s “For Heaven Is a Different Thing.” Choral Settings of Sacred Poetry. There will be two performances:

Sunday, October 25, 2015, 3:00pm
First Church (Congregational) 11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA

Friday, October 30, 2015, 8:00pm
St. Cecilia Parish, 18 Belvidere St., Boston, MA

$20 general admission and $15 senior/student.
• Tickets are available at the door or purchase online here
• Download the concert program here
• Download the concert poster here

HE SERAPHIM SINGERS ARE ENORMOUS ADVOCATES of new music with several new commissions each year. Jennifer Lester’s programming is astonishingly vast, from Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Polyphony to Twenty-first Century works. Yet, her programming flows with astounding unity and beauty. The Boston Music Intelligencer writes:

“Ingenious programming by Jennifer Lester…”

“Anyone who cares about these genres owes it to him/herself to hear this gifted ensemble whenever possible.”

“Technically, the ensemble was in fine form, performing incredibly challenging choral repertoire with a high degree of finesse.”

Hope to see you there!

Communion Antiphons for Advent • World Library Publicatons

AM PLEASED to announce the release of my Communion Antiphons for Advent with World Library Publications. Similar settings for Lent will follow shortly with WLP.

The antiphons are set from the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, which during Advent are congruent with the Graduale Romanum. Likewise, the verses set are those prescribed by Graduale Romanum.

Scores are available in hard copies or digital format:

Order • View sample pages:
Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Advent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

“Click & Print” • PDF Download:
PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Advent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

All are chant based.
Can be sung with cantor or unison schola
Ample opportunity for optional SATB
Includes an additional setting for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

BE SURE TO LISTEN to the recordings directed by Paul French, Director of the William Ferris Chorale and Music Director of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago. French and his singers beautifully captured the joy, movement, and energy of these chant based works. Glorious Things Are Spoken for the Immaculate Conception was recorded at St. Cecilia Church in Boston with Jaime Korkos, mezzo-soprano and Marc DeMille, baritone.

NFUSE CHANT WITH PASSION! Most of these settings are marked con moto. Chant or chant-based works must not be lethargic, plodding and as a result boring. They can be tranquil at times, but yearn for movement.

Taken directly form the scriptures of Advent, we have been singing these texts together as a Church for about thirteen hundred years. This is an extraordinary sign of unity and communion with our ancestors!

And the tradition lives and breathes within us today. It informs us of who we are. It connects us to the very source of life in the Eucharist. Finally, our traditions propel us toward an intimate relationship with God.

In the end, I hope these are useful, prayerful, reverent, and with a bit of passion.

Soli Deo gloria

Music for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

F YOU ARE LOOKING FOR some last minute selections of sacred music for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, look no further:

Download here several FREE Responsorial psalms from the Chabanel Psalm Project — settings by Jeff Ostrowski, Royce Nickel, Arlene, Oost-Zimmer, Aristotle Esguerra, Richard Rice, and Sam Schmitt, and yours truly.

Download here several FREE Gospel Acclamations.

Download a FREE communion proper: PDF • Communion Antiphon | Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary | Mass of the Day (Congregation part on Pg. 3) This setting is based on the Magnificat Tone 2. As the prescribed verses are the Magnificat itself, the verses alone can also be used for Vespers.

INALLY, A CHORAL SETTING of the Ave Maria, available from RJC Cecilia Music) for both SSAT and TTBB, performed here by the American Boychoir, conducted by Fernando Mavar-Ruiz.

• Photo courtesy of Len Levasseur | The Assumption Window at St. Cecilia Church, Boston

The Lord Is My Shepherd | SSA Choir

HE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD is now available for digital download.

Composed for SSA choir and piano, it can be learned quickly in one or two rehearsals.The text from Psalm 23 is taken from the universally known King James Bible.

You may purchase a downloadable Digital PDF of the score. Upon purchase, you will receive an email from which you can download the score.

    • ($19.00) Digital PDF copy comes with reprint license limited to use for one choir. You do not have permission to disseminate the score.

Listen here to a recording by the Boston City Singers, recorded live at mass at St. Cecilia Parish in Boston.

Lumen Christi—Paschal Candle Procession

Lumen ChristiLumen Christi is available exclusively through CanticaNOVA Publications

2010 Translation of the Roman Missal:
“Lumen Christi. The Light of Christ.
Deo Gratias. Thanks be to God.”

Gary Penkala writes: “The Paschal Candle Procession at the Easter Vigil is a solemn and joyful liturgical moment. After having struck the New Fire and prepared the Paschal Candle, the celebrant commissions the deacon to lead the procession carrying the Light of Christ into the church followed by the ministers and congregation. Lumen Christi by Richard Clark facilitates all the traditional elements of this procession: singing the response thrice, each time on successively higher pitches and accompanying the procession with choral embellishment, all a cappella (as the organ is still silent). –Expertly arranged and beautifully written, Lumen Christi will enhance the grandeur of this special processional.” — CanticaNOVA Publications

“…expertly arranged and prayerfully sung processional magnified the pronouncement of Christ as light of the world. As the church became illuminated with our growing candlelight, the processional music soared in a circling succession of musical keys, continuing to resonate a fuller and more robust response, with each dialogue and choral embellished throughout this processional triptych of symbolic human sound. It was transformative.”

Denise Morency Gannon – Ministry & Liturgy Magazine

Helping Your Deacon, Priest, or Cantor Learn the Exsultet

EGEND HAS IT that Mozart would gladly have traded all his works if he could claim to have written the first line of the Exsultet. Even Wikipedia states, “Here the language of the liturgy rises to heights to which it is hard to find a parallel in Christian literature.”

But singing this can be intimidating! Six pages of endless notes and words? As singing the Exsultet is the rightful role of the Deacon, it may also be sung by a priest or a cantor. What if your deacon, priest, or cantor is not a professional musician? Here is an opportunity to work closely with them. Meanwhile, let’s break it down and “de-mystify” some of this as to better proclaim the mystery.

OR STARTERS, here are some essential practice videos. You can listen and follow the score at the same time. The first recording is sung by Fr. Jonathan Gaspar:

      * *  YouTube • Fr. Jonathan Gaspar “Exsultet”

      * *  Mp3 Download • Fr. Jonathan Gaspar “Exsultet”

The second resource is a wonderful page compiled by Jeff Ostrowski. Here you will find his recordings and practice videos in higher and lower keys. You will also find additional recordings and scores including the “Shorter Form” of the Exsultet:

      * * Exsultet Video Recording • Paschal Proclamation


It will be helpful to refer to some casual notes I wrote (with non-technical terms) in the margins of the Exsultet here. Download an unmarked score from ICEL here.

The first page which evokes great rejoicing, consists of three “verses” or “psalm tones” (labeled in my notes) that are exactly identical in form. Learn the first two and a half lines, and you have now learned nearly the entire first page! Furthermore, the characteristic leap of a fifth, unique to this section, evokes the joyful fanfare of the trumpet—“…let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!”


Next (in parenthesis, which is skipped if sung by a cantor—N.B. the rubrics on Pg. 1) the deacon or priest invokes the mercy of God so that he may worthily proclaim “this candle’s perfect praises.” This parallels the Orate, Fratres which prays that our efforts will be worthy and pleasing to God. Labeled in my notes as “V1A” and “V2A” it uses the same melodic elements of the previous three “verses.”


Have you ever sung the Preface? Have you heard it sung? Then the rest will sound very familiar! The next section is taken verbatim from the Preface Dialogue. It serves to introduce the main body of the proclamation, the “Praeconium Proper” which takes on the nature of a Preface. In fact it even begins “It is truly right and just…” Again, the parallels to the Liturgy of the Eucharist are unmistakable and point to heightened solemnity.

As such, this section uses the same melodic formula as a Preface. This Preface tone continues throughout the rest of the chant. Jumping off from “A”, the reciting tone is on “C”. There is an accent on “B”, which is frequently used as an alternate reciting tone. This sets up the characteristic cadence of the Preface tone. Therefore, it may be helpful for for non-musicians to think of “A” as a landing spot—the chant’s strongest gravitational pull, along with “C” and “B” as additional points of gravity. (See my notes on page 2.)

I’ve marked what appear to be three “verses” or phrases. Quite remarkably, the third “verse”/phrase (page 3) describes Christ’s sacrifice as the Passover Feast—connecting the Old Covenant with the New: “These then are the feasts of Passover, in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb, whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.”


Halfway down page three, I’ve marked what I like to call the “Litany of This is the Night.This is the night is referenced no fewer than seven times, often heightened with melismatic phrases. This emphasis is warranted, as this section conveys some of the most extraordinary implications of the Exsultet.

Again, the Old Covenant is connected with the New, from liberating Israel’s children from slavery in Egypt, to present day: “This is the night that even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart…from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace…..” In this light of the present day, be especially mindful, that for Elect and Candidates of the Church, this indeed is the night of great importance in their lives!

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Exsultet follows shortly: “Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.” This leads to a dramatic admission of God’s mercy through Christ’s redeeming power with this astounding assertion:

O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!


As a bookend to the invocation to worthily “sing this candle’s perfect praises,” the Exsultet concludes with prayers that God may “accept this candle, a solemn offering…this gift from your most Holy Church.” In conclusion, there is a prayer for perseverance for the candle, that it may serve to “overcome the darkness of this night” and that “this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: The one Morning Star that never sets…”

OME FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS: Most every line is a gem. But while trying to concentrate on the notes, make sure you allow the boundless blessings of this text to supersede all that you communicate to the faithful. Here’s how:

Patience. Revel in the text and do not worry about mistakes. Make them and move right past them. Even the best of singers will make plenty of errors on this holiest of nights.

Sing it a few times for the music director who should listen in various parts of the church for pacing and diction. Diction will be much more important than singing each note perfectly. If you feel your pacing is too slow, your diction over-enunciated, it is probably just right!

Take the long view: The Easter Vigil comes around every year. You may have opportunity to sing this again in the future. It will get better and more comfortable each time. More importantly, the text will take hold hold of your heart for the rest of your life!

It is an honor to sing this. Anyone who does will be indelibly changed in spirit. For those who listen, allow its breathless beauty to steal your heart!

“I Am Risen, Resurrexi” on Choralife Publisher

AM RISEN, RESURREXI for SATB and Organ is available on Choralife Publisher. This piece has been featured on Dr. Jennifer Pascual’s on Sounds from the Spires. The text is from the Introit for Easter Sunday morning.:

Psalm 139: 18, 5, 6 & 1-2: I am risen, and I am always with you, alleluia; you have placed your hand upon me, alleluia; your wisdom has been shown to be most wonderful, alleluia, alleluia. V. O Lord, you have searched me and known me; you know when I sit down and when I rise up.

Order here and listen:
I Am Risen, Resurrexi | Introit for Easter Sunday | SATB & Organ | LISTEN HERE

          • Scores are available for download as a PDF.
          • On Choralife, you will find three different prices for each piece. The price varies depending on the country you are from. Thus, great music is made available to musicians in countries throughout the world, regardless of their economic resources.

Mardi Gras and Burying the Alleluia

HE HEBREW WORD, “הללויה” or “Hallelujah,” is a word of unsurpassed joy. It is an acclamation of praise, thanksgiving and victory.

“Hallelujah” is really a two–word phrase meaning “Praise Yah.” It is a joyous and unabashed song of praise to God and appears many times in the Book of Psalms, most prominently in Psalms 111-117 and 145-150.

Untranslated by the early Christians, we have adopted the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” as our own. Using it again and again, most notably during Eastertide, we joyfully sing our praises for Christ’s triumph and victory over sin and death. Christ’s Sacrifice has become our Paschal meal. The tomb is empty. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Free Download:
PDF • “Alleluia” (for SAB Choir; Dedicated to Fernando Mavar-Ruiz and Melissa Malvar-Keylock)

However, this Sunday, (and for some on Tuesday at daily mass) we sing our final “Alleluias” as we prepare to begin our Lenten journey towards the Easter celebration of Christ’s glorious Resurrection. Likened to the exile of the Israelites in Babylon, the practice of “fasting” from singing or saying the word “Alleluia” began in some places perhaps as early as the fifth century. The popular practice of “burying the Alleluia” had its beginnings in a lay-led ritual, which included a solemn procession to the church cemetery with a scroll or even a coffin inscribed with the word “Alleluia.” The “Alleluia” was literally buried in the cemetery, leaving the people with the hope and anticipation of its Easter Sunday resurrection.

Where does that leave us this coming week during Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday? Affectionately known as “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras is not merely one day, but a carnival season ending just before Ash Wednesday. “Fat Tuesday” is our last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. It is on this day that we express our last superlative praise of God by exclaiming “Alleluia.”

Just as on Mardi Gras we savor one final taste of indulgent sumptuousness, let us savor these last “Alleluias” as we would a last joyous meal with friends, confidants, family, and dear loved ones. Sing out and delight in this final sumptuous exuberance of God’s praise. Let its memory sustain us through the balance of this bleak winter; let its power strengthen us as we carry our own burdens and shoulder our particular crosses.

The hymn Alleluia, Song of Gladness (The Hymnal 1982, #122, 123; Words: Latin, 11th Cent.; trans. John Mason Neale) evokes the exile of the Israelites in Babylon as well as the fasting from singing “Alleluia” as we enter into Lent. Beginning with verse 2:

Alleluia, thou resoundest, true Jerusalem and free
Alleluia, joyful mother, all thy children sing with thee;
But by Babylon’s sad waters mourning exiles now are we.
Alleluia though we cherish and would chant for evermore
Alleluia in our singing, let us for a while give o’er
As our Savior in his fasting pleasures of the world forbore.

In the final verse, we patiently anticipate singing “Alleluia” in our Easter joy:

Therefore in our hymns we pray thee, grant us, blessed Trinity,
At the last to keep thine Easter with thy faithful saints on high;
There to thee for ever singing alleluia joyfully.

After this Sunday, our Alleluia is buried for the next six Sundays, not to be sung again until the Great Vigil of Easter when we stay awake and keep watch for the Resurrection of our Savior, Christ the Lord.